MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
FLETCHER DELAYS BROADBAND TAX VOTE AS INDUSTRY CONFUSION GROWS
The Minister for Communications has again delayed his broadband tax from coming to a vote, with the Bill pulled from the Senate at the eleventh hour.
This latest delay adds to growing confusion in the telecommunications industry about the state of competition policy in the portfolio.
Speaking before CEDA in late 2019 the Minister said the following:
“We are going to need to rely on and boost competition to make sure that our fixed networks continue to upgrade and stay in tune with world developments.”
Yet the telecommunications carriers that would invest in competing infrastructure have unanimously stated the Minister’s broadband tax would have the exact opposite effect:
Not only will the RBS [regional broadband scheme] perpetuate the trend of opaque and anticompetitive telecommunications policy, it will chill investment in both fixed and mobile telecommunications infrastructure.
Senator Urquhart: Will the proposed levy increase or decrease the incentives that private sector carriers have to invest in their own fibre infrastructure?
[Telstra representative]: I think logically it would decrease those incentives…
Senator Urquhart: Will the broadband levy increase or decrease the incentives that you have to invest?…
[OptiComm representative]: It would decrease.
The likely effect of limiting the RBS charge base exclusively to fixed-line high-speed broadband services will be to further incentivise private-sector investment in mobile and fixed-wireless services (which will increasingly be capable of undercutting NBN prices, as they will not be subject to the RBS levy), and to further disincentivise investment in fixed-line services.
TPG considered that infrastructure-based competition to the NBN ought not to be hindered by a tax that simply targeted fixed line carriers.
In many respects the new RBS is anti-competitive in structure and scope, and designed more to prop-up the NBN funding regime than to enable open and transparent infrastructure competition to improve and advance broadband service availability in regional and remote areas.
For more than three years the industry had to deal with the Fifield Triangle – a mysterious vortex of policy drift that would delay everything in its path.
It appears this term will be defined by the Fletcher Paradox – a glaring disconnect between what the Minister says and what he actually does.
THURSDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2020